If you’re considering entering the field of nursing or expanding your current role, you may be wondering about the level of compensation you can expect as a registered nurse (RN).

In general, RNs enjoy job security and generous compensation in exchange for their advanced skills and dedication to patients. However, the truth of the matter is that there are many factors that influence how much an RN takes home. Below we discuss the different factors which can influence your salary as a registered nurse.

How Much do Registered Nurses Make?

In exchange for their hard yet rewarding work, registered nurses typically enjoy generous pay and benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for RNs was $76,600, or roughly $337.31 per hour, in 2021.

In addition to competitive compensation, those entering the field of nursing can also expect job security and promising career growth. The BLS projects that employment for registered nurses will grow six percent between 2021 to 2031—faster than the average for all occupations. This growth translates to more than 195,400 new jobs in that time period.

There are, however, a number of factors that can influence an RN’s earning potential. A significant contributing factor to an RN’s salary is the location and type of facility in which they work. While each individual position is unique, the average salary of registered nurses varies by state and even by city.

Registered Nurse Salary in Massachusetts

In the State of Massachusetts, the average annual salary for registered nurses is $93,160 per year according to data from the BLS. This impressive pay makes Massachusetts one of the top five highest paying states for RNs to practice in. In fact, average salaries are even greater in urban areas such as Boston. In the metropolitan area including Boston, Cambridge, and Nashua, New Hampshire, RNs earn an average salary of $96,510 per year.

While location is a large determining factor in the level of compensation you can expect as an RN, there are several other factors that can influence your earning potential as well. Some of the main factors to consider include education level, the setting in which you work, and the specialty you choose to pursue.

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Factors That Impact Nursing Salaries

1. Education

One of the most significant factors that can impact your salary as an RN is your level of education.

While it’s possible to become an RN after having only earned an associate’s degree, more and more employers are beginning to prefer candidates with at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). As a result, associate’s level RNs typically earn less and have a harder time finding jobs than those with a BS.

“In the Boston area, it is very rare that an associate's degree nurse will be hired at the Boston acute care hospitals,” Donna Glynn, PhD, RN, ANP, and associate dean of pre-licensure nursing at Regis College, notes.

Due to this shift, it’s becoming increasingly clear that one of the best ways to advance your career and boost your earning potential is to earn your BSN.

For RNs that have already completed their associate’s degrees, some colleges offer special programs allowing them to apply their previous coursework toward earning their BS. Regis College’s RN-to-BS completion program, for example, is designed for RN’s wishing to further their education for professional growth.

Even greater opportunities for growth exist beyond the undergraduate level. RNs who are looking to further advance their careers can choose to become nurse practitioners (NPs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) by completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

With the expertise and increased responsibility that nurse practitioners take on, they can also expect an increase in pay. The national median salary for NPs was $115,800 per year in 2019.

2. Work Environment

The type of facility that you work in can also have a significant impact on your paycheck as a nurse. Registered nurses are needed in a variety of settings ranging from acute care hospitals to long-term care facilities, to physicians offices and home healthcare, and more.

According to Glynn, “It’s not only what city or community you're in, but also: Are you at an acute care hospital? Are you in a home care setting? Are you in a long-term care setting? All of these have different pay scales associated with them.”

Due to the different needs and demands of these types of work environments, the compensation that they are able to offer typically varies. In addition to factors like salary, you may choose to work in a particular kind of setting based on the hours you’d like to work, the patient populations you’re most interested in, and the kinds of conditions you’re most interested in treating.

3. Specialty

As you progress through your career as an RN, you will likely find that there are various opportunities to specialize your skillset and narrow your focus. While this typically involves additional training and education in the form of certifications, it can pay off in several ways.

Not only will pursuing a specialty allow you to explore your interests more deeply, but it can also unlock new career opportunities and boost your salary. Some common specialized careers for RNs include:

RNs that pursue an advanced education in order to become NPs can also choose from a variety of specialties. Common job titles and average salaries include:

Choosing to pursue a specialty can open up opportunities to deeply explore your passions, whether they lie in caring for specific patient populations or treating certain types of conditions. Doing so also allows you to cultivate your skills and expertise in a specialized area of nursing, potentially giving you a competitive edge in the job market.

Building Your Nursing Career

Not only is nursing an interesting and lucrative career, but it is a highly rewarding profession that has a positive impact on the lives of many. If you’re considering entering the field of nursing or advancing your career by becoming an RN, there are many avenues you can take to build a fulfilling career and boost your earning potential.

Pursuing additional training and education in the form of a bachelor’s degree, graduate degree, or specialized certification is a fantastic way to develop your expertise and accelerate your career. The various nursing programs at Regis College are designed to foster both personal and professional growth to set you on your path toward success.

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